My previous post included the comment that Adaptive capacity was something we did when our plans and procedures are inadequate to respond to a disruption. This capacity is something that can be built and sustained and is an essential attribute of a resilient organisation.
Unfortunately our obsession with writing plans means there is a lot of vested interests that do not want to understand the importance of developing the capacity to adapt.
Amy Stephenson is one of the people who does understand the importance, posting on her blog about my comments and added some explanation on adaptation – defining two orders of adaptive capacity.
Around the same time Dave Snowden was reporting on a conference he attended and discussing Exaptation. I have to admit, at first I thought Snowden had made this word up – but Wikipedia assured me that it was an existing, accepted concept.
Since coming to understand the term, it would seem to also be relevant to the study of resilience in organisations.
Exaptation can be defined as “characters, evolved for other usages (or for no function at all), and later “coopted” for their current role…” (Gould and Vrba 1982)
To put it another way, we developed the capacity, skills or tools to achieve one purpose – but then we find another use for this capacity – serendipity. Others describe exaptation as being “secondary adaptation”. The concept can be applied to existing objects, technologies and ideas.
Adaptation is not the same as invention. It does not mean that we have to create something from scratch, we may just use what we already have in a different way. Clearly this could include some aspects of our pre-planned BC response, just applied in a new way and perhaps to address an unexpected threat or impact.
The key is to shake up our thinking – to be able to apply ideas and tools in different ways. One of the best ways to stimulate and promote this capability in an organisation is via robust simulation exercises. Activities that stress the players to think and respond outside the boundaries of their prepared responses.
Getting people to change the way they think is a huge challenge. We cannot learn to adapt unless we are open to new thinking and innovation.
Unfortunately we don’t seem to be that open, this is an industry dominated by training and certification vendors to whom new knowledge and new ways of thinking are a threat.
Creating something new is often the easy part – be that a physical invention or a new idea or theory – the hard part is getting it adopted.
Do you think the risk and BC industries themselves are resilient?
Can we learn to innovate and adapt our own practices?